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Ignore the Negative Ads; Watch How He Treats His Wife

11/28/2008 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Today when I got home after lunch I had two pieces of mail from the Republican Party of New Mexico. I think I've gotten 5 or 7 pieces from these folks in the last week. They all feature pictures of Obama on them, citing things such as "Obama: he acted more as a friend to criminals than to cops..." and "Barack Obama. Not who you think he is."

Normally I just trash the junk and don't read it. Who REALLY reads political mail anyway? I don't think it does a darn thing to change minds. Maybe it just reinforces beliefs, but I don't think for a minute it changes any of them.

But looking at these pieces of true junk mail, it reminded me of something my old boss used to say about marketing: "When you are talking about the other guy, you're wasting valuable time not talking about yourself."

There are those marketing geniuses who will tell you that negative marketing works. I'm here to tell you that this election, nothing could be further from the truth.

I was shopping in Walgreen's tonight (Bargain Alert-they have bubble mailers at 3/$1.00) and I ran into a woman I know who works in advertising at the local newspaper. I didn't know her political beliefs, so I kept away from that subject, but in the course of the conversation, she brought it up.

Turns out her son came home from school today saying if he could vote, he would vote for McCain, because Obama was a Muslim and didn't love America. She was shocked to find that her son had heard that at school... from one of the TEACHERS. (that's a story for another time).

Now that I knew we had common ground, we stood in the aisle of the store for at least 30 minutes talking politics. She is a life-long Republican, but was voting for Obama, happily. Why? Because she saw from reading the newswires how the rest of the world perceived us. She read how other countries respected Obama. And she believed that we needed to raise our country's reputation throughout the world, and find friends and allies. This is something that a Maverick, intent on "bucking the system" would not, could not, do.

She told me that she believed Obama could do that. Why? Because of his calm and thoughtful demeanor. Because his time was spent talking about bringing people together, not wasted trashing McCain. Because of the way he spoke to people on the campaign trail. Because of the respect he showed his wife.

Respect he showed his wife? How he talked to people on the campaign trail? What did that have to do with what kind of a president he would be?

Actually, I understood what she meant. And to me, it spoke volumes. Years ago, when I would go out on a date, my mother would tell me, "Watch how he treats the waitress. Does he tip well? Watch how he treats his secretary. Is he respectful to her?"

My mother believed that these were quick ways to assess the measure of a man. I think her advice holds true today, whether it's a date or a guy who is hoping to gain political office. Anybody can put on party manners for the camera, but what are they like underneath the show? True compassion is obvious in the clasp of a hand; respect in the affection for one's spouse. And isn't that what we want in a leader? Someone who respects us, our needs, our hopes and desires? Someone who respects differences, but tries to find the best solution for all parties involved?

I know that's what I want in a leader. I'm tired of war and hate and deceit and duplicity. And I'm tired of negative campaigning.

One of the most negative guys on the ballot these days is one of the candidates trying to fill the seat of retiring U.S. Senator Pete Domenici. His name is Steve Pearce, and he is just plain one unhappy guy. I get all his campaign stuff and it's always negative.

That's why it was such a breath of fresh air today to meet with his opponent on the ballot, Congressman Tom Udall. Tom is as straight forward, honest and regular of a guy you could ever hope to meet. His campaign has refused to follow the negative model. He doesn't need to. He is very well-respected in New Mexico, because he says what he means, and he walks the walk.

He is a huge supporter of our military, and it's not campaign rhetoric. I was just told a story last week of how another life-long Republican was going to vote Democrat. Seems their son had been over in Iraq for a several months and because of some snafu, had not received a paycheck. No one they had contacted could help them. Not the military. Not Pearce's office. No one. Until, out of desperation, they decided to call Tom Udall's office. Within 10 days the soldier had a paycheck.

I have known Tom Udall for many years. I have had the pleasure of interviewing him at length about politics, his family and his personal life. I have immense respect for Rep. Udall because he is a man of his word. And many, many people, of both political affiliations, will say the same thing. He is truly a man who follows his conscience. He was one of the first, and only, opponents of the Patriot Act. He felt it was subverting the U.S. Constitution. It was not a popular position for him to take, but it was one in which he strongly believed. And one that time has shown to be correct.

Negative Advertising? Not from Tom Udall. His works speak for him. His friends and campaigners speak for him. They love him. Because he has the handclasp of compassion, and I've seen the respect for his wife.

And no piece of negative political junk mail in the world can change my mind. I don't think it will truly change anyone's. Instead, it just shows how hateful and divisive the political candidates who use negative campaigning are.

So I invite you to throw out the negative junk mail and watch the candidates in those quiet moments. Did he thank the waitress? Did he listen to the child? Is he nice to the reporter? Does he show affection for his wife?

I respectfully submit that those are the clues to the true measure of a man.